Classical Music | Piano Music

Franz Liszt

Les Cloches de Geneve  Play

Nadejda Vlaeva Piano

Recorded on 08/03/2000, uploaded on 06/17/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

During the latter half of the 1830s, Franz Liszt and Marie d’Agoult travelled throughout Switzerland and Italy. Liszt had emerged as a capable and original composer, and the scenes he witnessed throughout Switzerland inspired him to capture his personal reflections in tones. The resulting collection of pieces was titled Album d’un voyageur and was published in 1842. A few years later, in 1848, Liszt returned to these pieces revising them until 1854 and adding two more: Èglogue, which had been published separately, and Orage composed in 1855. The revised and expanded cycle was published that same year and rechristened as Première année: Suisse (“First Year: Switzerland”). It became the first installment in a trilogy of suites titled Années de Pèlerinage (“Years of Pilgrimage”).

The final piece of Première année: Suisse, titled Les cloches de Genève (“The Bells of Geneva”), Liszt prefaced with another passage from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

I live not in myself, but I become
Portion of that around me.

The music is less bell-like than one might imagine but instead portrays an overall mood of joy. A nocturne, the piece begins, not hesitantly, but with the utmost delicacy—solitary, quiet outlines of two triads separated by pauses, as if too sudden a start would ruin the fragile scene. After a repetition of these arpeggios, the second time with harmonic accompaniment, the nocturne commences with the arpeggios becoming the central figure of the accompaniment with a beautiful, wholly Romantic melody unfolding above them. The central episode of the piece’s ternary design, marked Cantabile con moto, shifts from the compound meter of the opening to a duple meter and presents a new melody over a harp-like accompaniment. Building through multiple keys, the fervent melody of this section reemerges later in the tonic key, breaking forth fortissimo in radiant joy. From this climax, the music subsides into the solitary arpeggios which opened the piece. However, a recapitulation of the opening theme is avoided and the nocturne concludes with quiet and solemn chords.      Joseph DuBose